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God grant that having these promises, we may not receive his grace in vain ; but that daily growing in conformity to the will of our Saviour, by following the blessed steps of his most holy life, we may perfect holiness in the fear of the Lord; so that our faith, not being alone and dead, but made perfect, and evinced by our works, we may now and ever have peace with God through Jesus Christ our Lord
The Christian's Life hid with Christ in God.
COLOSSIANS iii. 3.
For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.
THE language which St. Paul here employs in addressing believers, though highly figurative, is strictly applicable and correct. The sincere embracing of Christianity is such a death unto sin, such a renunciation of the corrupting pleasures and pursuits of the present life, in the hope and expectation of a better life to come, such a devotion of ourselves, and of all our powers, to the self-denying service of him whose kingdom is not of this world; that of those who deliberately resolve to make this sacrifice for the hope held out to them in the Gospel of Christ, it may well be affirmed, they are dead, and their life is hid with Christ in God.
In the early days of our religion, the application of this language to the followers of Christ
was true, not merely in its figurative, but almost in its literal sense.
The first Christians, in their privations and distresses, were indeed as dead. The possession of their faith exposed them to such persecution that they stood in jeopardy every hour.” If they would assume the obligations, and seek the rewards, of this hated religion, it must generally be at the loss of all that constituted the happiness of their earthly life. Houses and lands, father and mother, wife and children, brethren and sisters, yea, and their own life also, were the sacrifice which wicked men compelled them to make, whom conscience, and clear conviction of the truth, and a love of their own salvation, constrained to confess and follow Christ. And that such would be the result of obeying him, the Saviour himself expressly predicted; and in allusion thereto, declared, “ Whosoever he be of
you “ that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot “ be my disciple."
The more prominent any were in the profession or in the promulgation of the faith, the more certainly were they marked out for destruction; insomuch that it was said of the apostles, in allusion to those condemned persons who were brought out, last of all, in the spectacles of gladiators, and to whom no chance of escape was to be allowed, “I think that God hath set forth us “ the apostles last, as it were appointed to death; VOL. II.
“ for we are made a spectacle to the world, and “ to angels, and to men.”
Of persons whose lives were thus exposed and devoted, it might well be said, that they were dead. And since they could expect so little enjoyment in this present world, much did they need to be encouraged to set their affections on things above, not on things on the earth; and great need also had they to be reminded that that better existence which awaited them, was safe beyond the reach of their enemies, hidden and secured with Christ in God; in which, for all that they had here forsaken for his name's sake, whether houses, or brethren, or sisters, or fathers, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, they should receive an hundred fold, and inherit everlasting life.
Christianity, my brethren, is the same practical system now that it was in those early days; and the feelings and motives which animated those who first embraced it, should distinguish its professors in every age. It is not because Christians are no longer persecuted, that they should lose sight of the principles of that religion which they profess to have embraced, and are pledged to exemplify and extend; should love the world which they have promised to renounce; forget their obligations, prospects, and hopes; or in any particular, cease to be Christians. Their character is independent of outward circumstances.
They are called with a holy and self-denying calling. And to that character and calling which they were to exemplify, more than to any peculiarity of exposure in their circumstances, arising from the times of persecution in which they lived, was the reference of the text-—" For ye are dead, " and your life is hid with Christ in God.”
In this wide and extended sense, therefore, as being of universal application to Christians, these words ought to be considered; and to illustrate and define their meaning I shall devote the present discourse. What, then, are the senses in which it may
be said of Christians, of living members of the Church of the living God, that they are dead! I answer, first, they are dead to sin, that is, to the voluntary indulgence of it.
In the first rite of their profession, as many as were baptized into Christ were baptized into his death. However they may have been formerly the slaves of sin, they declared, in that act, that their sinful life was ended, that their former nature was crucified with Christ, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth they should not serve sin; for he who is dead is free from sin, free from its control, and free from the love of it; for how shall they who are dead unto sin live any longer therein? 6 Therefore,” says St. Paul, “ we are buried with him by baptism